Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Humility is the mark of the Christian. Pride is the mark of the enemy, and the one (a person, not a thing) who God opposes: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jms. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5; cf. Ps. 138:6; Prov. 3:34).
God is not simply neutral to the sin of pride. Pride is not a sin God passively overlooks. Rather, he actively opposes the proud. While actively opposing the proud, he gives grace to the humble. Humility is a mark of the gospel bearing fruit in a person's life. Humility manifests God's work which leads to God giving grace, since it reflects a life lived in trust and dependence on God, recognizing that "apart from me [Christ] you can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5).
Humility, trust and dependence reflect walking worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:27) and are evidences of life in the kingdom of God. There is no place for pride and arrogance in the life of the Christian or in Christian ministry. This sin speaks and acts absolutely contrary to God and his grace. Pride is the chief mark of sin, Satan and life in this fallen world, the kingdom of man.
There is no way the proud will flourish and ministries in which the proud lead or are a part of will flourish in the true sense of being an offering and a sacrifice that honors and glorifies God. This is not to say that there will be no fruit. But often that fruit is discerned from the human perspective, which means it is plastic fruit that looks real, but it is not real fruit. The other thing to remember is that God is sovereign and he causes all things to work together for his glory and our good, and this in spite of the proud.
Erik Raymond, You Cannot Domesticate Pride, writes of the deadly effects of pride. He does so through a story he read of a person who attempted to domesticate his boa constrictor. He would show off this snake and the relationship he had with it. Until one time, and that is all it took, things went wrong. The snake wrapped around his neck, and soon thereafter he was dead.
Raymond concludes that many Christians approach sin, especially pride in this way. They think pride can be managed, domesticated. However, notes Raymond, “pride is not something to be handled. It is not for you. It opposes and destroys.” He writes,
The subtle seeds of pride grow an oak of self-worship in the heart. Nebuchadnezzar did not build a 40′ statue demanding worship of him on the first day of office, but in due time it made sense for him to do this. It was the incremental footpath of pride.
Solomon didn’t allow in the worship of false gods on day one. However, it was the slow leak of idolatry and pride as his heart fastened itself to foreign women and fame that changed the temperature of Israel’s worship, leading them to a divided kingdom.
Even Judas didn’t envision the full ramifications of his desire for money and freedom. We know this when his plan finally materialized and boa constrictor of guilt tightened upon him. He was overwhelmed and undone.
It was pride that emboldened Satan in the garden and induced Eve to sin. It is pride that subtly elevates self against God. It is pride that hatched and accomplished the death of Jesus.
Pride is not something to take lightly. It is something to be identified and mortified. That is, we as Christians are to be aware of our susceptibility to it, search our hearts for it, and actively work to remove it through repentance and faith in Christ.
Let’s remember, dear friends, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”